Galatians 1:11-24 For every man whom God creates, He calls
Galatians 1:11-24 Every man whom God creates, He also calls
11 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
13 For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; 14 and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. 15 But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.
18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 20 (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; 23 but only, they kept hearing, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they were glorifying God because of me.
In the light of mounting accusations from the Judaizers, Paul sets up his defence in greater detail. First, Paul was ordained by Christ as apostle before he met the other apostles. Thus, he did not learn the gospel or received his apostleship from the Jerusalem leaders. Paul’s apostolic calling is to uncover a mystery: That the Gentiles, together with the Jews will through faith live out the fullness of Christ. Today’s devotion teaches us: For every man that God creates, He calls.
For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.
Paul asserts that he had been personally taught and sent by Jesus Christ. Not for reasons other than to deliver to the church a further aspect of the gospel message that is yet revealed to the Twelve (apostles). This further aspect of the gospel; what Paul termed as “the gospel which was preached by me” or “my gospel” (see Romans 16:25) is revealed to him by Jesus Christ. Hence, Paul’s gospel is not a derivative of man (or of the Twelve), but a fresh revelation that leads to the uncovering of a mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past (see Romans 16:25, Ephesians 3:2-10, Colossians 1:26). In view of this fuller revelation of this mystery, it is pertinent that Paul establish from the start his divine ordination as an apostle of Christ. This mystery pertains to the abolishment of the observance of Moses’s Law which achieves two purposes:
- The Gentiles to be integrated into the church.
- Both Jews and Gentiles will through faith live out the fullness of Christ.
Paul makes known this mystery in another of his epistles,
God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. (Colossians 1:27)
If the stronghold; the mentality of Moses’s Law is not rooted out, not only will the Gentiles be kept out of God’s kingdom, the Jews will not experience the fullness of Christ.
For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.
Paul draws attention to his former manner of life in Judaism. Being a fanatical follower of Moses’s Law and the traditions of his fathers, he oppressed and destroyed the Jews who believe in Jesus. Driven by self-righteousness, he was advancing in Judaism beyond his contemporaries. The below are some reasons why the Jews of that day persecuted the Jewish christians.
Many Jews were expecting the Messiah to liberate them from the oppressive Roman yoke and to restore the earthly kingdom of Israel. After Jesus’s death, two of his disciples lamented: “We were hoping that this man was the one destined to deliver Israel.” (Luke 24:21). Jesus did not promote violence but taught his listeners to love their enemies and to be submissive to the authorities. (Matthew 5:41-44).
By the time Jesus came to earth, Jewish religious thinking and customs had strayed from what was taught in the scriptures. The religious leaders upheld man-made traditions, putting them ahead of God’s word. Time and again they accused Jesus of breaking the Law because He performed miracles on Sabbath day.
Fear of losing power and position
After Jesus resurrected Lazarus, leaders of the various religious factions consulted together and said: “What are we to do, because this man performs many signs? If we let him alone this way, they will all put faith in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” (see John 11:47-48)
They were a stiff neck and unrepentant people
Israel in its past always exhibit a pattern of opposition to God’s plans and His men: Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery, Moses was rejected by the Israelites, and Israel rejected true worship by turning to idols etc. Hence, the church’s emphasis on the truth as opposed to the Law drew the ire of the Jews.
But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace.
Paul makes known that his apostolic ordination is not by accident or by his choosing, but by God’s sovereign call since he was in his mother’s womb. Paul’s apostolic call was activated when Jesus Christ appeared to him in a vision. In Paul, both messenger and message are divinely ordained to bring salvation to the Gentiles. And by virtue of Paul’s apostolic calling, his teachings are not a derivative of man but divinely received through Jesus. Thus, Paul does not need to obtain instructions by consulting men or to go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles. Instead, he went to Arabia, away from men to be alone with the Lord to receive further revelation. The radical zealot who pursued the Law now pursues a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days.
After spending three years in Arabia and Damascus, Paul went to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas (apostle Peter) (1), then to Syria and Cilicia (2) (see map below). In the light of the Judaizer’s accusations that Paul learned the gospel and received his apostleship from Jerusalem leaders, he laid down an account of his movement from the day he was converted: fifteen days with Peter in contrast to three years absence from Jerusalem. Indeed, a casual visit to a disciple of Jesus after his dramatic conversion harbours no notion of subordination. To stress the truth in the face of the Judaizer’s accusations, Paul put himself on oath. After the brief visit, he made his way to Syria and Cilicia where he stayed away from Jerusalem for 14 years. This is why he was personally unknown to the churches of Judea, but only the testimonies of his dramatic conversion.
For every man whom God creates, He calls
God sets Paul apart even from his mother’s womb for the task of bringing the gospel to the world. Paul (previously called Saul) was led by the ideals of his ancestors being oblivious to the plans of God for Israel. How is it possible for one like Paul who was so learned and zealous for God escape the revelation of Christ the Messiah? This shows that knowledge and zeal are not friends of divine revelation, but humility is. Before God revealed Himself to Paul, He had to humble him by striking him blind and helpless.
A man’s life purpose comes from God who calls him from his mother’s womb. The psalmist says,
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them. Psalms 139:16
God makes each person unique for a unique purpose. A man’s design (physical characteristics, personality, natural abilities, race and nationality etc) is determined by God at conception. God also predestined his path (the people he meets, the church he attends, the good times and the bad times) so that all things work together for good. Therefore, it is wise to seek God’s plans and not be led by our own knowledge and zeal. Many followed the paths laid down by man-made traditions and ideas. They model themselves after those whom they deem as successful. And they want to be that entrepreneur or charity queen they followed on social media. Regrettably, many are lost wondering what their life purpose is when they are already half way through. However, God rewards us when we know our calling and accomplish it. Many spent years climbing the corporate ladder, and are outstanding in their field of work. But what they achieved have very little to do with making the world a better place. The end for them is utter vanity.
That said, we are ultimately accountable to God who calls us, not to men. Hence, it is wise to spend more time listening to God and less time consulting others. Only God knows what He has created us for. Paul, having received the revelation of Christ did not immediately consult with men or those whom he deemed as credible. Instead, he went away to be alone with God so that he may fully understand God’s plans. People may provide you with creative ideas and well intentioned opinions. Still, they did not create you or are invested in your future, which God is.
Do you spend time listening to God’s daily directives for your life? Or are you preoccupied with your ideas and plans? You can know God’s purpose for your life first, by diligently reading the word and living it out. Avail your particular expertise to help others without expecting anything in return. Always be sensitive to people’s feelings. Understand the needs of impoverished communities in your city and reach out to them. Get yourself trained in the area of spiritual gifts and use them to preach the gospel. As you are found faithful in the above, God will reveal to you your calling in greater detail.
Dear Lord, I thank you for creating me and calling me for a unique purpose. As I endeavour to read the word and to live out, make me a servant to help those in need. Mould me through my daily challenges so that I may be equipped to fulfil my purpose. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.